May 26, 2014

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Duke Finds Winning Formula, Repeats as NCAA Champ

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | May Madness Home

In-Game Blog Replay

 

Above: NCAA All-Tournament Team member Miles Jones scored two goals and finished with 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in four tournament games.
Below: Duke celebrates its second straight NCAA crown and third overall after the final whistle. 
(Bill Danielewski)

Photo Galleries: In-Game Action | Celebration

BALTIMORE — With swagger at midfield, an uninviting defense and a seemingly endless supply of players that could score in transition or 6-on-6 sets, Duke displayed its mastery of the winning Memorial Day formula Monday, defeating Notre Dame 11-9 in the NCAA men's lacrosse championship game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Senior attackman Jordan Wolf, the forgotten Tewaaraton Award finalist, made his case with two timely fourth-quarter goals and four assists in leading the Blue Devils (17-3) to their second straight NCAA championship and third title in five years.

"He's the best attackman in the nation," junior line mate Kyle Keenan said.

Throw in the feel-good story of a 29-year-old defenseman and U.S. Army veteran (Casey Carroll), the emotional lift of a senior defying doctors for one last ride on a torn ACL (Luke Duprey), a faceoff man with moxie in big moments (Brendan Fowler) and the poise of a team with eight straight NCAA final four appearances, and this script had Duke written all over it.

But the seemingly punchless Irish (12-6), who through 40 minutes had more turnovers than shots on goal, saved their haymakers for the last 20 minutes. Notre Dame twice pulled within one, unleashing freshman midfielder Sergio Perkovic (five goals), but Wolf answered the bell for the Blue Devils both times.

Duke led by as many as six goals, but saw the lead dwindle to 9-8 with five minutes remaining when Perkovic exploited his short-stick matchup on the wing to score.

Wolf, who eclipsed 100 points to set Duke's single-season scoring record and became just the ninth player in NCAA Division I history to surpass 300 career points, fed junior attackman Kyle Keenan in front for a goal to put the Blue Devils back up by two at 10-8 with 2:39 left.

"I was supposed to post to the crease there and Jordy pressed that side, gave me a great feed," Keenan said. "I didn't even think I was open. He just put it right in my stick."

Perkovic wasn't finished, however. He hit two pipes on wide-open looks. After a Notre Dame timeout, Perkovic got a third chance and scored to make it 10-9 with 49.6 seconds remaining.

"It was about the second practice of the year when I turned to our coaches and said he may be one of the best players we've ever had," Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said of Perkovic. "He's no surprise to me. He's going to be one of the absolute stars in college lacrosse the next three years."

Perkovic almost became the star of the NCAA championship. Notre Dame has advanced to the semifinals three times in the last five years, losing to Duke in overtime in its only other championship game appearance in 2010.

But Fowler (13-for-23) won the next faceoff and Wolf iced the game out of a timeout, escaping a double team with speed to score on an open goal.

"He is the hardest-working kid in the weight room," Danowski said of Wolf. "Our strength test, pound for pound, he is number one on our team. He never missed a practice for four years."

Wolf also scored to stop a four-goal Notre Dame run earlier in the fourth quarter.

"It's a good way to walk off," said Wolf, who earned the NCAA tournament's most outstanding player award.

Corrigan, who contested that Fowler moved early on the last faceoff, said Notre Dame dug too deep of a hole to complete the comeback. The Irish stuck with their plan to keep Duke's hot-shooting midfielders Myles Jones and Deemer Class on the field to play defense in hopes of tiring them out. Jones and Class finished with two goals apiece but faded down the stretch.

"We felt like we'd be stronger the last 20 minutes in the game, but we let it get away from us too far," Corrigan said.

Duke was opportunistic in the early going, jumping to a 5-1 halftime lead. With senior defenseman Henry Lobb's 6-foot-4 frame draped all over 5-foot-8 Notre Dame attackman Matt Kavanagh, the Blue Devils held Notre Dame without a goal for the first 21:55.

Kavanagh, who carried the Irish with 15 points through the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament, freed himself enough to score off of a screen to make it 3-1 with 8:05 left in the second quarter.

The Blue Devils answered right away, spinning the ball around the perimeter and getting Class an open look from 12 yards out to go up 4-1.

Notre Dame's best scoring opportunity of the second quarter came when Conor Doyle weaved inside a double team to get topside on the crease for a point-blank shot. But Luke Aaron, whose inconsistency in Duke's quarterfinal and semifinal wins led to Danowski inserting "closer" Kyle Turri in both games, denied Doyle on the doorstep. Aaron then hit defensive midfielder Will Haus with an outlet pass in stride. Haus blew by Irish midfielder Pat Cotter and scored in transition.

Aaron finished the game with nine saves.

"I said to the team, 'I promise you Luke is going to play well today.' The message was he's going to be fine. You guys relax in front of him. We trust him," Danowski said. "He seemed more relaxed."

NCAA.com Highlight Video

Duke started the second half man-up due to a Notre Dame offside penalty just before halftime. The Blue Devils took advantage right away, as Keenan converted a Jack Bruckner feed into an extra-man goal 17 seconds into the third quarter to go up 6-1.

Perkovic ended another Notre Dame scoring drought of 13-plus minutes when he beat short-stick defensive midfielder Charlie Payton down the left alley and sent a high overhand shot past Aaron to make it 6-2.

But Duke answered again. First, with Notre Dame slow to sub in transition, Wolf from behind the goal fed freshman midfielder Thomas Zenker trailing the play for goal. Zenker had scored just two goals all season.

Then Wolf found Jones with time and room on a feed over the top of the Irish defense, and Jones deposited it to give the Blue Devils their biggest lead of the game at 8-2 with 6:40 left in the third quarter.

Notre Dame strung together four unanswered goals bridging the third and fourth quarters thanks to a couple of scrappy plays by Kavanagh, who finished with two goals and an assist, and a couple of booming shots by Perkovic. But the Irish never tied or led in the game.

"Just played 30 minutes of poor lacrosse to start the game," Corrigan said. "We knew we were deeper, we knew we would be stronger in the last 20 minutes and we were. We just came up a play or two short."

Notes & Quotes

Kavanagh surpassed Randy Colley for Notre Dame's single-season scoring record, finishing with 75 points. He also set the Irish's single-season assists record, finishing with 33... Wolf finished the season with 103 points on 64 goals and 39 assists and ended his career with 303 points... Notre Dame goalie Conor Kelly made 12 saves and earned a spot on the NCAA All-Tournament Team alongside teammates Kavanagh and Perkovic... Duke placed six players on the all-tournament team: Class, Haus, Jones, Keenan, Lobb and Wolf (MOP). Denver's Wes Berg rounded out the 10-player list... Ben DeLuca, the former Cornell coach who was dismissed by the school unexpectedly in the fall, drew high praise for his handling of the Duke defense as a volunteer assistant. "There's a brotherhood amongst thieves, I guess you would say, and you've got to take care of each other and the coaching fraternity," Danowski said. "We had this job where you don't pay any money and you work a lot of hours, and Ben was willing to do that..." Danowski said he did not consider pulling Aaron from the game when Notre Dame rallied late... Duke is the eighth team to win consecutive NCAA Division I championships and the first since Syracuse repeated as champs in 2008 and 2009... Monday's championship game drew 25,587 fans.


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